Five Secrets to Increased Productivity (That Cost Nothing)


These five tips aren’t really secrets at all, but they do bear repeating. In this fragile economy, everyone is looking to make more with less. With years of study and decades of corporate experience Victor Lipman, Forbes contributor, recently highlighted some basic principles managers can put in to practice today to boost productivity without spending a dime.  Turns out, all you have to do is be polite.

It doesn’t take a Gallup poll, like the “State of the American Workplace”, to prove that employee disengagement is growing. Yes, the job market has been discouraging for both those with and without work. Not only has it been harder to find a good job, but the lean times and budget cuts affect those still working as well. When the air around the office is suspicious, negativity can catch on like the common cold. It is crucial for managers to ramp up their efforts to keep morale high.

Participate in goal setting

Everyone’s heard of SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Some companies conduct annual reviews around them and pay big dollars to firms for tracking applications; however, without investment and interest on the front-lines, employees may find the exercise futile. The whole process backfires, and employees become even more disengaged and frustrated. To avoid this, managers should be more mindful to actively participate in the goal creation, and then remember to follow up.

Remember accountability

By the same token, the next no-cost way to boost productivity is accountability. Managers can have discussions with employees regarding the status of their job objectives, and consider the consequences when the goals are not met. Not only does this incentivize the individual, but it also sets precedent for the rest of the team. Lipman authored another piece about this specifically.

Create buy-in by using common courtesy

Those simple ‘Ps and Qs’ your Momma taught you can sometimes be forgotten in a fast paced workplace, but showing employees respect fosters a positive work environment. People like to work hard for managers who show they care about them outside of work. If asking about soccer tournaments and scheduling golf games is too chummy for you, then a simple “Good morning” followed by the person’s name can go a long way. That polite habit is often underestimated, but it can have lasting effects on one’s esteem. Just think about the time the executive you hardly ever see genuinely greeted you – using your name – and how good that felt.

Build up those around you

Probably one of the most highly regarded requests of employees – in many cases above compensation – is just the occasional “Nice work!”. Making it a practice to thank others is a decent thing to do in life in general, but its effects reach even further professionally. It doesn’t cost a penny to uplift and inspire others, and the residuals are exponential when people are recognized in front of their peers. An interesting study was conducted by Carla Valencia at Westminster College in Utah about Motivation and Productivity in the Workplace, and its scientific findings mirror the same concept.

Listen like you mean it

Last, but not least, listen and keep an open mind. It can be deflating for those that put the blood, sweat, and tears into a project, only to see it be misunderstood or dismissed by executives. Employees worked hard on a project, and if the higher-ups don’t take a minute to go to the source with their questions and concerns, it’s downright insulting. In a healthy relationship of any kind, communication is key. The act of listening is paramount because it shows the other person that you value them and respect them. Not being heard can leave something to be desired. This applies especially for women in male-dominated industries, and those with broad generational gaps. It would be a major milestone for women’s equality in the workplace if this shortcoming was eradicated – listening is free. (Read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In for more about ‘Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’)

So you see, these secrets aren’t rocket science. But exercising these habits as a manager will undoubtedly increase employee engagement, and therefore increase productivity. They say it only takes that a little bit of extra effort to take a grade from a ‘B+’ to ‘A-’, so keep these points in mind and get some for your company; it won’t cost a thing.

(Not too certain it would have helped in the case of Lucy and Ethel, however.)

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